By KYW community affairs reporter Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - A Pennsylvania woman is lead plaintiff in a federal
class-action lawsuit filed this month in Philadelphia against "Angie's
List," a website that says it provides members with customer-driven reviews.
But the woman claims the Indiana-based company is a fraud.
Boasting more than three million paid members, Angie's List is known
for its reputation of providing unbiased customer reviews about service
providers, ranging from plumbers to pulmonologists.
"In reality, what they do is based primarily on money received from
vendors," says Ken Grunfeld, an attorney with the Philadelphia law
firm of Golomb and Honik. The firm is representing plaintiff Janell Moore,
who claims she joined "Angie's List" in 2012 and used the
web site to search for a contractor.
She chose a company with no reviews. However, when that contractor ripped
her off and she gave a negative review, she later learn that other "Angie's
List" members had posted negative experiences.
"What we learned is that this particular contractor pays Angie's
List to be pushed up on Angie's List ratings and to have other negative
reviews suppressed," says Grunfeld. "They (Angie's List)
hold themselves out as being a company for the people, but what they do
is make their ratings and rankings based on whether or not venders, i.e.,
service providers, advertise."
The complaint claims that service providers pay Angie's List fees for
higher rankings in member searches, to suppress negative reviews, and
to ensure that positive reviews are not suppressed.
"It's important that web sites tell us who they are and what they
are doing when we seek information from them," says Grunfeld, noting
that web sites such as "Yelp" do not promote themselves as consumer-driven,
so consumers know the reviews could come from anywhere.
The suit seeks damages based on fraud, unjust enrichment, and other claims.
Angie's List makes two-thirds of its revenue from service providers,
according to the company's investor relations department. A company
spokesperson responded in an e-mail that Angie's List's policy
is not to comment on matters of litigation.